Small samples may mean a lot for 2020-21 Syracuse basketball

Quincy Guerrier
Dec 18, 2019: Syracuse Orange forward Quincy Guerrier battles for possession against Oakland Golden Grizzlies. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

With 31 games on a regular season schedule, the college basketball campaign lasts four months, then pushes closer to five when the postseason is tacked on at the end, depending on a team’s success. A lot happens in that time, but there is danger in putting too much weight on small samples of a season.

Volatility happens, whether it is a player who averages five points a game scoring 15, a long-range sharpshooter missing every shot he puts up, or a team going scoreless from five-plus minutes of a game. As a result, there are a lot of smaller samples that make up a full season.

Here are some small samples for Syracuse’s primary returning players that will hopefully mean a lot in the future:

Buddy Boeheim – 41-for-100 on three-pointers in non-conference games

In the dozen games outside of the ACC regular season, Boeheim shot 41 percent from long range. That means he shot 34.6 percent (56-for-162) from long range during the conference season. With only one other established outside threat on the roster able to play for certain, Boeheim will need to pick up his shooting to be closer to his gaudy non-conference mark for the Orange offense to play well.

» Related: Could Elijah Hughes be Syracuse’s most successful NBA player since Jerami Grant?

Joe Girard III – 27-for-96 from three, 34-of-42 from the free throw line in the last 13 games

To be clear, it is absolutely picking nits to complain about Girard shooting “only” 81 percent from the free throw line down the stretch, but it gets to a deeper question: can Girard improve his conditioning enough to play at a high level late into a full season? Prior to the January 25 game against Pitt, Girard had made 35.5 percent of his treys and 96.2 percent from the line. Starting with that contest against the Panthers, the freshman slid to 28.1 percent from deep and that 81 percent mark through the end of the season. SU will need him to be more consistent as the calendar turns to February and March.

Marek Dolezaj – 48-for-54 from the free throw line

While Girard’s accuracy from the foul line slid starting against Pittsburgh, Dolezaj picked up the slack, connecting on 88.9 percent of his free throws in that same 13-game span that ended the campaign. Prior to that, the junior forward knocked down 61-of-92 at the stripe, just a 66.3 percent mark. That slower start did feature Dolezaj making all seven freebies against North Florida and draining all six he shot against Boston College, so the signs of his improved stroke were there. A more offensively aggressive Dolezaj could result in more trips to the line and more free points for the Orange.

Quincy Guerrier – 0.353 points and 0.277 rebounds per minute

As a freshman, Guerrier earned additional playing time as the season went on, often when Bourama Sidibe was out with foul trouble. When he played at least 15 minutes in a game, the Canadian produced at the rates listed above, which is much higher on a per-minute basis than when he got just a cameo. By comparison, in the seven games where Guerrier saw limited floor time, he posted just 0.235 points and 0.188 rebounds per minute. With Guerrier looking like a starter next season, his ability to pound the glass and finish inside will be important.

Bourama Sidibe – 12-of-15 from the line

The biggest player in the starting lineup gets the smallest sample size. Everyone knows how well Sidibe played in the last six games of the season, pulling down double-digit rebounds in each game and posting double digits in scoring thrice, including a pair against North Carolina. But, as his confidence grew, Sidibe hit 80 percent of his foul shots in the last four games. Expanding the stat to those last six games, Sidibe was 15-for-24 from the stripe. That was nearly as many foul shots as he made the rest of the season, as Sidibe was 16-of-32 over the first 26 games.

And one more because he would be a major rotation player if granted an eligibility waiver…

Alan Griffin – 13-for-26 and 16-for-30 from three-point range

Griffin was a streaky shooter for Illinois, and not for a few minutes at a time. As a sophomore, the shooting guard had a pair of six-game stretches where he was electric from long range. In the first span, Griffin connected on half of his triple tries and scored at least eight points in every game, even when he missed all four of his threes against Missouri. Griffin actually improved on that accuracy mark in the second burst, hitting 53.3 percent of his long-range attempts, scoring at least nine points in each game and exploding for 24 points and six treys against Northwestern. If the sophomore from Ossining, NY can harness that hot hand, he will be an explosive option for Syracuse, even if it is not for another season.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 631 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.